Bands have replaced dead and disgruntled singers before. Hell, Van Halen has switched frontmen over the past 25 years more often than bassist Michael Anthony has changed his hairstyle. But only INXS looked for a new singer on a reality-TV series. "We didn't want a singer with [an established] career," says guitarist Tim Farriss. "We didn't want it to be about us and them. We want it to be about the band."
CBS's Rock Star gave the Australian group, which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, a second chance. After singer Michael Hutchence was found dead in 1997 (from suicide or kinky sex, depending on what you believe), the band's decade-long hit streak came to an abrupt end. A few one-off concerts with '80s R&B singer Terence Trent D'Arby, among others, taking over vocals failed to jump-start the group.
But last year, Survivor creator Mark Burnett approached INXS with the novel idea of looking for a new singer on TV. "We really had no idea what would happen," says Farriss. "Some of the guys really wanted to mess with the dynamic and have a female singer."
The winner, J.D. Fortune, is an Elvis impersonator from Canada. He immediately joined his new bandmates in the studio and recorded Switch, the first new INXS album since 1997's Elegantly Wasted. "J.D. was very strong-minded about how the songs should sound," says Farriss. "He's reinvigorated the band."
Now that Farris has gotten to know Fortune, both in the studio and on the road, he says the band has spotted similarities between their new singer and their old one. "The weird thing is, we didn't want a Michael [clone]," he says. "And that's sort of what we got."
Fri., May 19, 8 p.m.